SAGE 2YC > Change Agent Teams > Southern California 3

Southern California Change Agent Team 3

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Martha House, Pasadena City College
Elizabeth Nagy-Shadman, Pasadena City College
Michael Vendrasco, Pasadena City College

Jump Down To: Progress to Date | Team Activities | Team Members | Institution

Purpose Statement

We are working to increase student awareness of, and preparation for, academic and professional pathways attainable with a 2-year degree, 4-year degree, or certificate in geoscience. Given the diverse student population on our campus we are strongly interested in reaching all students. Mechanisms that we are exploring include devoting classroom time to informing students about geoscience careers and pathways, incorporating career preparation into our courses and programs, and building relationships with our institutions' career and transfer counselors. As we work towards these goals we are also actively making efforts to build a 2YC geoscience community in the southern California area that will foster fruitful interactions, and possibly collaborations, between members of various institutions in the region.

Progress to Date

As of June 2018

  • met with institutional planning and research office to update our department outcomes data
  • updated our purpose statement as relates to our new change agent team
  • two of three of us attended June SAGE2YC meeting and identified goals for the upcoming 2018-2019 year
  • continue to work with our administrator and prepare a summary of our project for a new administrator (to arrive winter 2018).
  • discussed ideas for our winter SAGE workshop
  • began discussions regarding our institutional data

As of Spring 2018

We are a new branch on the Change Agent tree, and the third team in southern California. The initial southern California team consisted of Elizabeth Nagy-Shadman from Pasadena City College and David Mrofka and Becca Walker from Mt. San Antonio College. This team ran two face-to-face workshops (December 2016 and August 2017) that included full-time and adjunct faculty, including counseling faculty, from 15 community colleges (including ours). The 2016 workshop addressed facilitating students' professional pathways by including college transfer counselors in our afternoon discussion of 2YC-4YC transfer issues, as well as supporting academic success through gallery walks, a metacognition presentation and discussion, and small group work. The 2017 workshop focused on assessment and active learning strategies, both of which are linked to supporting academic success.

This initial team has divided into two new teams: David and Becca at Mt. San Antonio College (Team 1) and Elizabeth, with new change agents Martha House and Michael Vendrasco, at Pasadena City College (Team 3). An additional southern California team (Team 2; Cohort 2) also consists of faculty from Mt. San Antonio College. Because southern California is home to 33 community colleges, many of them located within a 50-mile radius, these three teams will have plenty of opportunity to reach others. This density of 2YC geoscience departments provides an ideal opportunity for institutional interactions through face-to-face and virtual meetings.

Elizabeth Nagy-Shadman uses many active learning strategies to support student success in her physical geology and earth science classes. These include activities such as think-pair-share, gallery walks, jigsaws, minute papers, muddiest points, and exam wrappers. She gives a 1-hour discussion on metacognition to all of her classes on the day she returns their first exam. All of her students do a "geoscience career project" that involves research, an interview with someone working in the geosciences, and a poster presentation to the class. She is currently creating a Natural Hazards course (for Fall 2018) based primarily on InTeGrate materials, which are designed to connect course materials to societal concerns. She is also developing an undergraduate research component to her Physical Oceanography field course that she initiated in Spring 2018.

Martha House and Michael Vendrasco joined the SAGE 2YC project in the Spring of 2018.

Martha House employs a variety of active learning strategies in her Physical Geology, Oceanography and Mineralogy courses and is currently curating a collection of open educational resource materials for use by the department in these courses. She is also leading an initiative to integrate a sustainability theme along with related course-embedded student research projects in our various courses. This work will be piloted in a range of geology and geography courses, as well as online in Fall 2018.

Michael Vendrasco uses active learning methods such as minute papers, reflective prompts on raw oceanographic audio and video clips, and think-pair-share activities. He provides whiteboards for students to get immediate feedback from them and to promote the effective design of diagrams to depict key concepts. Michael includes a variety of metacognition techniques, including exam wrappers, modeling notetaking and how to properly answer essay questions, and weekly journal reflections. This semester Michael is developing a two-week problem-based activity centered on fisheries management for his Physical Oceanography classes. He is expanding his use of scientist spotlights to highlight diversity in the geosciences, and has added an undergraduate research component to both the Physical Oceanography Laboratory class and Historical Geology Field course.

Work Going Forward

Our overall plan is to inform colleagues of what we've learned at SAGE2YC and to engage them in applying some of what we've learned in their own practice. To do this, we aim to use DATA to generate interest and involvement in better meeting student needs.

  1. Improve communication with goal of helping with student transfer, career planning and understanding of program

  2. Plan workshop with goal of broadening participation.

  3. Collect data on EPI with goal of fostering discusison of how to address student needs (success of all students)

  4. Engage colleagues with goals of clarifying state of program, opportunities for improvement and ?

Foremost among our goals is to improve communication on a variety of levels. We aim to develop consistent mechanisms to provide important program, career and transfer information to students. . We anticipate this will be accomplished by several activities. We'll begin by creating graphics for display in the department (study area, new basement classrooms) focused on these topics. We'll engage fellow faculty in the expansion and ongoing maintenance of our website and try to organize a plan for updating. This is something we've been trying to do for a while, but we realize (based on feedback at the SAGE2YC meeting) that this is a very important piece of helping students. Lastly, we will try to organize a plan for communicating activities of relevance to the rest of the division via a monthly e-blast of activities and student opportunities (this will be coordinated with any efforts happening in the division at large and campuswide). Better communication tools that focus on career, diversity and transfer will hopefully help us attract more students to geosciences and broaden participation across demographic groups, as well as promote student success and completion by clarifying program transfer requirements. Completion (certificate/degrees awarded), success and enrollment data to be indicators of the impact of these actions.

Our winter workshop will focus on the SAGE2YC strand of broadening participation in geosciences. This workshop will address topics such as science identity, stereotype threat, and overall Sense of Belonging (source of problems, strategies for addressing and mitigating). We will also focus on the unique needs of first-generation students. We plan to hold this half-day workshop in early February 2019 and will target regional community college faculty (full time and part time). We'll need some logistical help with this.

A third goal for the fall is to work with PCC Institutional Planning and Research Office to create a tool for collecting data on educational practices. As part of SAGE2YC, we completed a survey focused on how and when we include a range of instructional practices in our classes (i.e. lecture, service learning, etc). This was very interesting because it could be tied to studies showing student improvement for some of these activities. We think it will be interesting for our colleagues in Geology to examine their own practice in this way. To do this, we'll need to collect data and then distill it graphically; IPRO can help with this. We'll be able to measure the impact of this activity by completing a follow up survey of our peers and by looking at success data for classes in which they may have introduced some new practices.

Throughout the Fall and Winter, we hope to foster regularly planned department discussions centered on examining success data and identifying means to address student needs. Specific goals that we hope to include in these discussions are means to reduce the achievement gap that we observe in our data, exploring "sense of belonging" scenarios as a way to broaden interest in geoscience, and discussing EPI data with the goal of relating it to ways to improve student success, participation and career understanding. We also would like to spend some time doing a SWOT analysis of our program (Geology specifically and Geosciences overall) in preparation for a new dean. THe impact of this activity can be measured with success and retention data, as well as data related to completion (certificates and degrees awarded)

Finally, we feel that some of the issues that we've discussed at SAGE2YC (fostering a sense of belonging as a means to broaden participation in STEM) might benefit the Natural Sciences Division community. With this in mind, we'd like to work with the new Professional Development Director to present a workshop on the topic for our faculty.

Team Activities

Until the spring of 2018, Elizabeth Nagy-Shadman was part of Southern California Team 1, which ran the following events:

Fall Workshops

2016 Workshop
December 2, 2016, Mt San Antonio College

2017 Workshop
August 25-26, 2017, Pasadena City College

Spring Follow-on Activities

Spring 2017 Event
May 19, 2017

Spring 2018 Virtual Gathering
Friday, March 30, 2018

Southern California Team 3 formed in the winter of 2018. We are organizing and running the following events:

2018-19 Workshop
January 3-5, 2019

Team Members

Elizabeth Nagy-Shadman

Elizabeth has been a full-time faculty member at Pasadena City College since 2010. After her graduate work at Caltech (1997) and several postdoctoral positions, she found herself teaching high school earth science in upstate New York, where her primary research interests turned from tectonics to science education. She was a Board Member of GSA's Geoscience Education Division from 2007-2010 and a member of the GSA Education Committee from 2007-2011. From 2012 to 2016 she was a faculty mentor and workshop leader for the STAR (Stem Teacher And Researcher) program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She is currently an Associate Editor for the Journal of Geoscience Research. Elizabeth has also been responsible for engaging the 2YC community in the InTeGrate project (2012-2016), a $10 million NSF-funded STEP-Center grant.


Elizabeth teaches Physical Geology, Physical Oceanography, Earth Science, and field courses ranging from day trips to 2-week field excursions.

Michael Vendrasco

Michael Vendrasco was a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Stratigraphy and Paleontology, University of Granada and has done extensive fieldwork on Cambrian carbonates of the Great Basin. He was an Environmental Specialist in the Ocean Monitoring Program at the Orange County Sanitation District and has also taught at California State University at Fullerton.


Michael teaches Physical Geology, Historical Geology, Oceanography, Meteorology and Environmental Sciences.

Martha House

Martha House studied at University of Michigan and MIT and has been at Pasadena City College for 16 years. She previously taught at Caltech and at Saint Louis University. Her research on low-temperature geochronology and GPS has taken her to China, Antarctica, New Zealand, Australia, the Swiss Alps and much of the western US. She serves as the Coordinator for Earth and Space Sciences at PCC, which includes organizing department resources and implementing planning priorities. Her Eco-Tour Operator Role Brochure for oceanography courses is part if the On The Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities Collection. She has participated in many SERC-sponsored workshops and testing of the Integrate Climate of Change module. She is currently curating resources for oceanography and geology courses with the aim of eliminating textbook use.


Martha teaches Physical Geology, Oceanography, Mineralogy, California Geology, Natural Hazards, and Field Geology and Mapping.


Pasadena City College

Institution: Pasadena City College is a large, single-campus 2YC in the Los Angeles area. It serves over 32,000 students, 41% of whom are Hispanic or Latino and 21% of whom are Asian/Pacific Islander, making PCC one of the few colleges in the country that is both a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (ANNAPISI)-eligible.

Geoscience program: The geoscience program at Pasadena City College includes 5 full-time and 4-6 adjunct geology faculty and 4 full-time and several adjunct geography faculty. Courses taught in the geoscience program include Physical Geology, Historical Geology, Ocean Science, Meteorology, Environmental Science, Geography, Earth System Science, and GIS certification.

As a department, every semester Pasadena City College offers 5-7 sections of Physical Geology (lab and lecture), 2 sections of Earth Science (lab and lecture), and 4-6 sections of Introduction to Oceanography (lecture); all of these are introductory, non-major courses. PCC has "majors" who take historical geology and field courses, and could take electives such as dinosaurs (rigorous), California geology, or environmental geology. The College also offers mineralogy once a year. The Geoscience Department at PCC is part of the School of Science and Mathematics and has a geoscience coordinator who is the department's liaison with the Dean.

Institutional demographic data is from IPEDS the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, U.S. Department of Education, typically for the 2014-15 year as available.

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